Microsoft buys speech recognition, conversational AI tech firm

The company will acquire Nuance Communications, an artificial intelligence and speech technology company, for $19.7 billion.

Microsoft’s Nuance deal, the Dell/VMware announcement and the privatisation of Proofpoint dominated the international ICT market last month.

Key local news

  • Altron acquired Etion’s Lawtrust, a digital signatures services company (R245m).
  • Dimension Data bought Acacia Cloud Solutions, a cloud implementation specialist that works closely with Amazon Web Services.
  • Cartrack Holdings has been delisted from the JSE, and Karooooo listed on the JSE.
  • MetroFibre, the fibre telecommunications company, is buying Link Africa’s fibre-to-the-home network in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Ntuthuko Shezi, founder of Livestock Wealth, a livestock crowd farming platform, won the 2020 IT Personality of the Year award; while Nomthi Nelwamondo, CIO of Assupol, and Dr Stanley Mpofu, CIO of the University of the Witwatersrand, are the joint winners of the Visionary CIO of the Year award.
  • Telemasters reached an agreement to purchase the remaining shares of ConexLink it doesn’t already own (R3.92 million).
  • Volaris, an operating group of Canada-based Constellation Software, entered the Adapt IT fray, making an offer to acquire more than 50% of the issued ordinary shares of Adapt IT for a cash consideration of 650c per share, which is significantly above the offer from the Huge Group that is already on the table.

Key African news

  • A submarine telecommunications system connecting SA to the islands of Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius has gone live.
  • Ethiopia received two bids for two new telecoms operating licences from MTN and a consortium of Vodafone and Vodacom.
  • The Ghana government will acquire 100% of AirtelTigo, Bharti Airtel’s ailing joint venture with Millicom International Cellular SA, along with its customers, assets and liabilities.
  • Millicom is pulling out of Africa, as the group shifts to a sole focus on Latin America and has agreed to sell its Tanzania operations to Madagascar-based pan-African operator Axian.
  • MTN Group will list its Rwandan subsidiary on the Rwanda Stock Exchange on 4 May.
  • Twitter will open its first African office in Ghana.
  • The appointments of new CEOs/MDs, etc, at Airtel Africa and Jumia Ghana.

Key international news

  • Accenture acquired Core Compete, a cloud analytics services firm, and Root, a consultancy with 30 years of experience helping Global 2000 organisations activate strategies and transform cultures using creative and visual methods to accelerate employee engagement and change effectiveness. It has also come to an agreement to acquire Openminded, a France-based cyber security services company that provides advisory, cloud and infrastructure security, cyber defence and managed security services; and it has invested in Nigeria-based fintech company Okra, an open finance data infrastructure start-up serving the rapidly expanding African financial services market.
  • Atos Group bought Canada-based Processia, a product life cycle management integrator and Dassault Systèmes Global Service Partner; UK-based Ipsotek, a leading AI enhanced video analytics software provider; and German cyber security firm Cryptovision.
Ntuthuko Shezi, founder of Livestock Wealth, a livestock crowd farming platform, has won the 2020 IT Personality of the Year award.
  • Cofense purchased Cyberfish, a cyber security start-up.
  • Converge Technology Solutions acquired Dasher Technologies, an IT solution provider.
  • Ensono, a global solution provider, purchased London-based Amido, a developer of cloud-native applications.
  • Francisco Partners bought VitalSource Technologies, an education technology solutions provider committed to helping partners create, deliver and distribute learning experiences worldwide.
  • Hotwire acquired McDonald Butler Associates, a strategic B2B sales and marketing agency specialising in the $5.2 trillion technology industry.
  • IBM bought myInvenio, a process automation software maker. It has also agreed to acquire Turbonomic, a provider of software that helps companies monitor the performance of their business applications ($1.5 billion+); and announced that its managed infrastructure services business would be called Kyndryl after a planned spinoff into a public company later this year.
  • InfoVista, the global leader in network life cycle automation, purchased Empirix, a Thoma Bravo portfolio company.
  • Ingram Micro acquired Harmony Business Systems, the developer of the HarmonyPSA platform that brings automation, management, billing, ticketing, customer relationship management and related services to MSPs.
  • Insightsoftware bought Logi Analytics, a marketer of financial reporting applications used by CFOs.
  • J2 Global purchased certain assets of HowLongtoBeat, a digital media firm.
  • China’s ByteDance’s gaming unit Nuverse acquired C4games, a video games studio.
  • PAR Technology bought Punchh, a leader in loyalty and guest engagement solutions ($500 million).
  • Performanta purchased UK-based Identity Experts, a Microsoft Gold Security Partner and identity and access management specialist consultancy.
  • Servify acquired Germany-based WebToGo, a provider of multichannel self-care and customer experience solutions for smartphones, tablets and laptops.
  • Syntax bought Linke, a European provider of services for migrating SAP environments to the Amazon Web Services cloud.
  • Tech Mahindra purchased DigitalOnUS, a hybrid cloud and DevOps services provider ($120 million); and Eventus Solutions Group, a provider of end-to-end customer engagement solutions.
  • Thoma Bravo acquired RealPage, a software provider for the rental housing industry ($10.2 billion).
  • Tyler Technologies bought ReadySub, a cloud-based platform that assists school districts with absence tracking, filling substitute teacher assignments, and automating essential payroll processes.
  • Xerox purchased Canada-based Groupe CT, a leading independent document management provider.
  • Affirm Holdings plans to acquire Returnly, which provides online return experiences and post-purchase payments.
  • Apple has been charged with abusing its dominant position in the music-streaming market by imposing restrictive rules on the App Store, in a landmark move by European Union regulators.
  • Autodesk signed a definitive agreement to acquire Upchain, a provider of instant-on, cloud-based product life cycle management and product data management solutions.
  • Blackstone, along with a unit of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and UC Investments, will spend as much as $2.8 billion to acquire a majority stake in Mphasis, an IT services company.
  • Brooks Automation has entered a definitive agreement to acquire Precise Automation, a leading developer of collaborative robots and automation subsystems.
  • Cardlytics intends to acquire Bridg, a customer data platform that empowers marketers to better understand and reach customers using SKU-level insights.
  • CGI intends to acquire Sense, a professional services firm focused on digital systems integration and consulting for state and local government and commercial clients.
  • Chinese regulators have fined Alibaba $2.8 billion for abusing market dominance.
  • CoForge, formerly NIIT Technologies, has agreed to acquire a 60% stake in SLK Global Solutions, a business process transformation enterprise.
  • CommScope, a global leader in connectivity solutions for communications networks, is to spin-off its Home Networks business.
  • Credera has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Areteans, a leading global services and solutions company.
  • Dell Technologies plans to spin off its majority stake (81%) in VMware in a move that will create two companies as standalone entities, in a deal worth about $9.7 billion.
  • Facebook’s acquisition of GIF site Giphy will face an in-depth investigation from anti-trust regulators, after the social media giant failed to make concessions to address competition concerns; and Ireland's Data Protection Commission launched an inquiry into the company after a dataset reported to contain personal data relating to 533 million Facebook users worldwide had been made public.
  • Grupo Televisa SAB will sell its content and media assets to Univision Holdings in a deal valued at $4.8 billion.
  • Hellman & Friedman has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Enverus, a developer of a SaaS-based data analytics platform for the oil and gas industry.
  • J2 Global has sold City Numbers and Callstream, both part of its UK Cloud Services business, and will split into two publicly traded companies as it separates a part of its cloud business from its network of media sites and other offerings.
  • KKR has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Ensono, a global IT services provider, and has led a $500 million investment in Box, a cloud services provider.
  • KPN has filed a patent-infringement complaint against Ericsson.
  • LG Electronics will wind down its loss-making mobile division.
  • Netherlands-based MessageBird has agreed to buy SparkPost, an e-mail marketing firm ($600 million).
  • Microsoft will buy Nuance Communications, an artificial intelligence and speech technology company ($19.7 billion).
  • Nokia has settled a multi-year patent fight with Lenovo Group, resolving all pending litigation across all jurisdictions.
  • Orbcomm has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by GI Partners, a leading US-based investor in data infrastructure businesses ($1.1 billion).
  • Panasonic has agreed to acquire Blue Yonder, a supply chain software specialist ($7.1 billion).
  • Pintec Technology has entered into an agreement to acquire China-based Jishengtai Technology, a securities technology firm.
  • Route Mobile, a communication platform company, will acquire Phonon Communications, an AI platform provider.
  • Silicon Laboratories will sell its infrastructure and automotive business to Skyworks Solutions for $2.75 billion.
  • Stripe has agreed to acquire TaxJar, a maker of sales tax compliance software for start-ups.
  • Synopsys has signed a definitive agreement to acquire MorethanIP, a provider of Ethernet Digital Controller IP supporting data rates from 10G to 800G.
  • Thoma Bravo will buy cyber security firm Proofpoint for about $12.3 billion.
  • The US Supreme Court handed Alphabet's Google a major victory, ruling that its use of Oracle's software code to build the Android operating system did not violate federal copyright law.
  • A US jury has ruled in favour of Intel in a $1.3 billion patent infringement lawsuit filed against it by VLSI Technology.
  • ViacomCBS has agreed to acquire Chilevisión from WarnerMedia, a division of AT&T.
  • WEX has an agreement to acquire benefitexpress, a leading provider of highly configurable, cloud-based benefits administration technologies and services.
  • Wipro has signed an agreement to acquire Ampion, an Australia-based provider of cyber security, DevOps and quality engineering services.
  • Wistron Corporation has exited its joint venture with Optiemus Infracom, which has acquired Wistron’s 19.91% shareholding in subsidiary Optiemus Electronics.
  • Zscaler has agreed to purchase start-up Trustdome, a provider of a cloud infrastructure entitlement management platform.
  • Brighton Park Capital made a $125 million investment in OPSWAT, a provider of infrastructure-focused cyber security services.
  • Eutelsat made a $550 million investment in OneWeb, a satellite company.
  • Kock made a $500 million investment in Mavenir, an end-to-end cloud-native network software provider.
  • Silver Lake Partners has agreed to purchase a minority stake in Abu Dhabi-based Group 42, a creator of cloud computing infrastructure, AI research and other related solutions ($800 million).
  • SoftBank Group invested a 40% stake in Norwegian robotics company AutoStore ($2.8 billion) and in Redis Labs, a real-time cloud analytics platform firm.
  • Blackstone led an investment in Vectra AI, creator of a threat detection and response platform for corporate networks, private data centres and the cloud.
  • The investments led by SoftBank or one of its Vision funds in Meesho ($300 million); SambaNova Systems, an AI specialist; OneTrust, a privacy and security software provider; and Trax, an image recognition technology firm ($640 million).
  • The investments led by Tiger Global among others in Groq, a next-generation semiconductor start-up; and Scale AI, a start-up that labels datasets for AI training.
  • Vista Equity Partners led a $300 million investment in Canada-based Vena Solutions, a developer of spreadsheet management software.
  • The appointments of new CEOs at Ceragon Networks, D4t4 Solutions, Digimarc, Lycamobile, L&T Technology Services, Qualys, Tencent Music, TikTok, Toshiba (interim) and VVDN Technologies.
  • The deaths of Charles Geschke, co-founder of Adobe, and Bhupender Saharan, co-founder and CEO of VVDN Technologies.
  • IPO filings from Alphawave IP Group, a semiconductor IP firm (London); Krafton, the video game holding company that publishes the blockbuster game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (South Korea); PicPay, a Brazilian financial start-up (Nasdaq); and Zeta Global Holdings, a marketing software firm co-founded by former Apple CEO John Sculley.
  • IPOs from Alkami Technology (Nasdaq), AppLovin (Nasdaq), Darktrace (London), DoubleVerify Holdings (NYSE), Karooooo (Nasdaq), KnowBe4 (Nasdaq), Skywater Technology (Nasdaq) and UiPath (NYSE).

Research results and predictions

  • Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $4.1 trillion in 2021, an increase of 8.4% from 2020, according to Gartner.

Stock market changes

  • JSE All share index: Up 0.7%
  • FTSE100: Up 3.8%
  • DAX: Up 0.9% (all-time high reached during this period)
  • NYSE Up 2.7%(Dow): (all-time high reached during this period)
  • S&P 500: Up 5.2% (all-time high reached during this period)
  • Nasdaq: Up 5.4% (all-time high reached during this period)
  • Nikkei225: Down 1.3%
  • Hang Seng: Up 1.2%
  • Shanghai: Up 0.1%

Final word

Fortune magazine recently published its 2021 listing of ‘The 100 best companies to work for’. Included in the top 25 were:

  • 1: Cisco
  • 2: Salesforce.com
  • 12: Nvidia
  • 18: Adobe
  • 21: Comcast
Read more